The Rangers selected the contract of left-hander Hyeon-Jong Yang from the alternate training site on Monday afternoon. Yang was available for Monday night’s series opener with the Angels at Globe Life Field.
Texas signed Yang on Feb. 12 from the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization. He started 324 of his 425 career appearances in the KBO, posting a 4.70 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 2020. He’ll provide a lot of length for the Rangers out of the bullpen, especially after pitching 172 1/3 innings in 31 KBO starts last year.
“We've always had our eye on him, all spring I think he pitched really well,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “We like what we have with him. He's an older guy who knows how to pitch and throws all of his pitches for strikes. We can trust him. He can go out and give you length. The stuff itself played better than maybe we anticipated as a low 90s fastball, but really played up an ability to throw every other pitch in the strike zone.”
In Yang’s place, rookie outfielder Leody Taveras was optioned to the alternate site, while first baseman Ronald Guzmán was transferred from the 10-day to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster.
The move for Taveras was anticipated, following his slow start to the season. After making his MLB debut in 2020 and skipping Triple-A, the center fielder went just 4-for-46 with one RBI in 15 games for the Rangers this season. He made 14 starts in center.
Woodward said maybe the cancellation of the Minor League season in 2020 possibly affected Taveras’ development at the plate. This move is more about getting Taveras confidence by having him take more consistent at-bats at the alternate site and then the Minor League level in May when those seasons start.
“This is kind of an important time [in his career],” Woodward said. “I think he needs to go down and play and maybe take a little heat off. I think the progression of the everyday role kind of tapering into where it has been over the last week or so, where it’s not an everyday role, I don't think that's too beneficial for him.
“The one thing I'll say about him is that he's been nothing but professional. He's kept his head up, he's a confident kid. He works his tail off.”
Guzmán is set for right knee surgery on Wednesday after he suffered a meniscus tear in the Rangers' series at Tampa Bay.
The emergence of Adolis García, who was called up in place of Guzmán, made the Taveras decision easier for the Rangers. In 12 games since his season debut on April 13, García has slashed .265/.294/.633 with five home runs and 13 RBIs. His production led to a lack of everyday playing time for Taveras, especially because García can play all three outfield positions and Eli White has filled in at multiple spots, too.
“[García is] older, he’s a lot more mature, he's been through a lot of things,” Woodward said. “Not that [Taveras] isn’t. Leo especially is an intelligent kid, but I think Adolis has been through a lot of things. The fact that he's having success, and it's consistent success against pretty elite pitching, it's pretty impressive what this guy's doing right now.
AL Player of the Week honor
Adolis García was also named the American League Player of the Week for April 19-25. He is just the second Texas rookie to win the award, joining Oddibe McDowell from July 22-28, 1985, the week he hit for the cycle. García is also the first overall Rangers player to win since Joey Gallo from April 15-21, 2019.
In just García's second week on the Major League squad this season, he went 8-for-24 with four home runs, nine RBIs and an .875 slugging percentage across six games.
The Rangers acquired García from the Cardinals in December 2019, but this has been his first chance to perform for the Rangers at the Major League level. He spent most of the 2020 season at the alternate training site.
“We were intrigued by just the overall package of abilities that he brings to the table,” Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels said of what the front office saw in García. “We've seen a lot of out here. He's a plus defender in all three outfield spots, he's obviously got a plus arm that’s very accurate. There's no fear in his game.”